Philippine Cop Detained at Airport

APA customs agent inspecting the luggage of Eliseo Dela Paz, center, upon his arrival Tuesday in Manila from Moscow.
A former Philippine police chief was detained by Moscow airport customs officials while attempting to leave the country with 105,000 euros ($138,000) in undeclared cash, news reports said Tuesday.

Eliseo Dela Paz, who retired from the police force earlier this month, was detained as he prepared to fly from Moscow to Poland on Oct. 11, Philippine media reported. The cash was reportedly found in the bag of his wife, who was traveling with him.

"I apologize deeply to our people and to our government for the untoward incident at the Moscow international airport that last week touched off an international embarrassment to our country," Dela Paz told reporters after arriving in Manila on Tuesday, ABS-CBN News reported.

Dela Paz had attended an Interpol conference in St. Petersburg with a Philippine delegation. He was detained while preparing to fly out of Moscow to Warsaw, the Inquirer.net web site reported.

Russian investigators questioned him and his wife for hours about whether the money had originated in Russia, Dela Paz told Inquirer.net. He said he had not declared the money on entry to Russia.

Dela Paz told local television that the money was a contingency fund for the delegation. "It is not easy being on alien territory with nowhere to get immediate financial succor," he said.

"The Moscow authorities allowed me last week to return to our country, as they have ascertained based on the documents presented to them that the money in my possession was acquired legally and was for a legitimate purpose," Dela Paz said.

He and his wife were allowed to leave Russia on Saturday, said a spokeswoman for the Philippines Embassy in Moscow. She said no one was available to give additional information Tuesday.

Dela Paz faces an investigation by the Philippines' Senate.

It was unclear which airport Dela Paz had tried to leave from. A customs spokeswoman at Domodedovo Airport said Dela Paz was not detained at that airport.

Officials at the Federal Customs Service and the customs department at Sheremetyevo Airport said they were unable to answer questions Tuesday afternoon.

Dela Paz appears to have gotten off lightly compared to some other travelers caught with excess, undeclared cash at Moscow's airports. U.S. missionary Andrew Okhotin was given a suspended sentence of six months in 2003 on charges of attempting to smuggle $48,000 through Sheremetyevo Airport.

Last month, media activist Manana Aslamazyan was fined 1,000 rubles ($40) by Sheremetyevo Airport customs service for failing to declare 9,550 euros ($12,500) when she entered the country last year.

By law, travelers must declare cash of more than $10,000.